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June 18, 2012

Grazing: Wine on Tap

Lake_road1Gut instinct might tell you to stay away from wine in a box, but you’d only be half right: Boxed wines have been improving, though some are still god-awful.

Wine in kegs, however, are way ahead of the game. Often, restaurants must eat the cost of wine that oxidizes in the bottle, such as a slightly unusual varietal opened for a glass pour and never ordered again. This is partly why many wine-by-the-glass lists tend to resemble each other. (K-J Chardonnay, anyone?)

Enter kegged wine. Even if the clunkiness of a beer keg seems at odds with the elegance of wine, tapping vino in an airtight container keeps ruinous oxygen at bay and a batch of wine fresher, longer. It's also eminently "green," cutting down on glass waste.

Wine on tap has been gaining traction all over the country, yet has been relatively slow to come to our sleepy state. This spring, Burlington’s Pizzeria Verità rolled out what might have been the city’s first tapped-wine system, featuring a red and a white from Charles Bieler. Around the same time, the bars at American Flatbread and Farmhouse Tap & Grill hooked their taps up to kegs of Cayuga White (which they sell as Lake Road White), a superlight wine from Shelburne Vineyard.

Shelburne's salesperson Macy Mullican pitched the idea of kegged wine to winemaker Ken Albert last year. At first, he balked. “Basically, we were sort of skeptical about putting wine in kegs,” says Albert, reasoning that it might degrade the quality of his wines. Yet once he dug around and realized that wines in kegs could ably maintain their flavors, he caved. And Cayuga White, an easygoing blend of New York-grown Cayuga grapes with touches of Riesling and Chardonnay, was a shoe-in to be first on tap.

Food_farmhouseI ventured in for a taste earlier this week. An extremely light-bodied wine, Cayuga White pours from the tap with generous fizz, which rapidly clears to a faint swirl of effervescence. The wine's aromas are subtle, and on the palate, Cayuga White is almost feather light with wisps of pear and apple, low acid, and a quick, slightly sweet finish. It’s clearly a wine to drink fresh.

Cayuga White really comes alive with food, showering love all over a roasted beet salad with Does' Leap Chevre — it coaxed out the dish's sweetness. 

If wine in kegs means more chances to sample new wines, I'll tap that again. 

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